visit Mattheus Silvaticus

Mattheus Silvaticus

  Liber pandectarum medicinae

Mattheus Silvaticus (died c. 1342)

(the earliest printed book in the library)

Folio-leaf: 297 x 200 mm. 206 leaves: (1) dedication, (2-4) index, I - 202.

Sign.: a - m8, nlO, o6, p-z8, ~8, ?10. Two columns, 73 lines to the page.
Gothic type. Initials painted in alternate red and blue, some with red and
blue interlock. The text starts with a large illuminated initial in gold and
colours. First and last leaf mounted, first leaf, with dedication on verso,
cut down without loss of text. Otherwise in excellent condition, but
unfortunately rebound in a modern binding when acquired in 1820 as a gift
from Johan Gyllenborg. "Gafva fran Kammar herren och Riddaren af K.
Nordstierneorden Hogvalborne greven Herr Johan Gyllenborg, 1820."

The editio princeps of the Liber pandectarum medicinae of Mattheus
Silvaticus was probably published in 1470 by Adolph Rusch in Strassburg,
although it bears no date, no place of printing or name of the printer.
Klebs, Stillwell and others regard the Naples 1474 edition as the first one.
Nevertheless, it is "one of the first medical incunabula to be printed"
(Garrison). The present edition is rare and was the last work issued from
Saracenus' printing office in Venice. At least fifteen editions are known of
which eleven are printed during the incunabula period (before 1501).

The compilation of his large materia medica entitled Pandectae (hence his
nick name) was begun c. 1297 and was completed around 1317. It is dedicated
to King Robert. It is a reference work for physicians on diseases and their
remedies in the form of a general universal dictionary of plants of
medicinal properties, their names being given in Arabic, Greek and Latin.
The work is divided into 771 chapters (in this edition), and arranged in
alphabetical order. No other work of the period contains such an array of
names, chiefly Arabic. The names are followed by a description of the drug
and its properties accor ding to such authorities as Serapion, Dioscorides,
Pliny, Galen, Avicenna, Albertus Magnus, and others. The descriptions of the
more important drugs extend from one to four pages. In some instances he
adds his own observations. Many erro neous statements are due to his
ignorance of the true names of the plants he dealt with. His main source was
the Synonyma medicinae by Simon of Genoa. The Pandectae is much larger than
Simon's Synonyma, but generally inferior, except from the purely botanical
point of view. Mattheus' descriptions of plants are more elaborate than
Simon's and he could occasionally refer to his experience as a traveller and
as a gardener. These genuine botanical observations redeem the Pandectae
from Haller's severe judgment, 'Auctori barbari opus chaoticum' or in John
Friend's words (1725): "there is scarce any understanding in it; there being
hardly one line, where there is not a barbarous or unintelligible
expression: so that there wants another Dictionary to explain his meaning. "